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'Yama Danda' is a scripture of the Swaminarayan faith written by Nishkulanand Swami. It describes the punishment in hell for the crimes and wrong doings done on earth.

On Wednesday 29 August 1990, three London millionaires were sentenced to jail for taking part in an illegal share support scheme. Ernest Saunders, the mastermind behind the Guinness Shares Scandal, was given five years. Heron International Chief Gerald Ronson, the 14th richest man in Britain, was jailed for a year and ordered to pay a record $5 million fine. The third criminal, Anthony Parnes, a former stockbroker, was sentenced for 2.5 years. The trio paid the price of deception. The Judge, Mr.Justice Henry said as he passed the sentences, "Those who act dishonestly can expect little mercy."

People who are convicted of breaking the law of this world are sent to prison.

But what happens to those who break the law of God?

Where do they go?

The sinners land in hell.

Hell is a place where people go when they have rejected God and His law.

Hell is a place of remorse and despair; a place where a wish is never granted, no longing ever satisfied. There is no satisfaction in hell. It is a place where one suffers for all the wrongs done in life.

The sinners pray in hell, but their prayers are never answered.

They thirst in hell but their thirst is never quenched.

They suffer in hell, only to suffer on.

People who have sinned all their life sometimes foresee the agonies of hell even before they die.

The Mogul Emperor, Aurangzeb (1617-1707) terrorised millions in India. He forbade all public worship of the Hindu faith and laid upon every Hindu a heavy capitation tax. As a result of this fanaticism, thousands of mandirs which had represented the art of India through a millennium were destroyed. The Emperor himself, in his last ten years, began to realize that by the very narrowness of his piety, he had destroyed the heritage of his fathers. His deathbed letters are pitiful documents of a haunting emptiness: "I know not who I am, where I shall go or what will happen to this sinner full of sins…. My years have gone by profitless. God has been in my heart yet my darkened eyes have not recognized his light. There is no hope for me in the future. I have greatly sinned and know not what torments await me."

It is a fundamental belief of Indian religion that a man's destiny is determined by his actions on earth.

Thus, Lord Swaminarayan preached a life of morality, righteousness and devotion to God. He taught that a man should live rightly in accordance with the moral order (dharma). But the materialistic attractions of this world and man's craving for them stops him from following the path of God and obedience to His law. He strays from the path and commits sinful deeds. He does not realize the consequences of his sins.

With this view in mind, Lord Swaminarayan told one of his disciple saints, Nishkulanand Swami, to write an account of the tortures in hell so that man would be afraid to commit sins.

"But I have no knowledge of the agonies a sinner has to undergo in hell," said Nishkulanand Swami.

"Very well," replied the Lord, "I shall reveal to you the visions in hell."

Thus Nishkulanand Swami had a revelation in which he saw the tortures of hell.

In 1804, Nishkulanand Swami produced a work called 'Yama Danda.'

It is a treatise in 1100 verses on life, death and salvation.

The first half deals with the sorrows of worldly life separated from God and the second half extols the joys of salvation. It is a work of great historical value because it is the first work written in the Swaminarayan Movement.

Nishkulanand Swami begins with the scene in hell. The God of Death (called Yamaraja) is seated on his throne in the court. By his sides are two attendants who have a full account of the sinful deeds of the sinner. The gruesome servants of the God of death haul the sinners before the court where he is deemed to pay the price for his 'crimes' on earth.

The process is straightforward. The attendants read the list of sins as the Judge orders appropriate punishment to the sinner. Finally, the Judge hands the sinner over to the servants who drag him away from the court room towards the pits of suffering.

Here is an account of some of the tortures in hell which Nishkulanand Swami describes in 'Yama Danda.'

· Selfish people are stabbed and their limbs are chopped off with a sword.
· Unjust rulers and their ministers are crushed to death in hell.
· One who intentionally kills insects and other such living things is avenged by the very same creatures in hell.
· People who commit adultery are thrown in a pool consisting of blood, saliva, pus, urine and faeces. There, they are made to drink the rotten mixture and beaten to death.
· Imposters who exploit innocent people in the name of God are strung together and made to sit on a bed of thorns for a thousand years.
· Child murderers are chained against a rock and smashed to death.
· People who rob and mug people suffer excruciating pain when their skin is peeled off with red-hot iron pincers.
· Arrogant people are thrown upside down in a pot of boiling oil where they are left to simmer.
· People who drink alcohol, spirits and other such intoxicants are made to drink hot tar.
· People who enjoy killing animals for sport are strangled to death.
· Meat-eaters are roasted and eaten up by the demons in hell.

One who bears false witness against others is made to sleep on a bed of spikes where wild beasts tear him to pieces.

Nishkulanand Swami concludes the 'Yama Danda' by singing the greatness of a God-communion Sadhu. He states that such a Sadhu is the embodiment of Dharma (righteousness) and people should seek his association to enrich their lives with spiritual wisdom and realization.

For us, Pramukh Swami Maharaj is the upholder, the sustainer and the protector of Dharma. Therefore, we should make a firm resolution to live a life in accordance with the Shikshapatri and the wishes of Swamiji and shun all sinful deeds or opportunities.

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